As a freight broker, a key part of your job is to continually ensure you have enough carrier capacity to manage your loads. The better you get at carrier sourcing and maintaining those trusted relationships, the higher percentage of loads you can cover and the more money you can make each month. But carrier capacity is tight, so you need to be proactive. Below, we will look at how to find carriers to improve your capacity. Here’s what you need to know.
What is carrier sourcing?
As the name suggests, carrier sourcing is the process of finding new carriers. For freight brokers, though, it’s not enough to locate potential carriers. You need to find trustworthy carriers that are a good match for your needs and deliver reasonable bids. Then you need to nurture those relationships to make the best carriers a regular part of your network.
The process can be time-consuming, but smart and strategic carrier sourcing pays off. This is especially true in light of the current carrier capacity shortage happening across the United States. Freight brokers who aren’t good at carrier sourcing and logistics are at a strategic disadvantage, and the problem is only expected to worsen in the coming years.
The carrier capacity shortage
Naturally, you’ll start with your existing network to cover freight. You probably already have a “go-to” list of carriers you trust. But what happens when you have more freight than your current network can handle? The only way to stay competitive is to source more capacity, fast. One way is through a load board like Truckstop.com’s Broker Load Board, which features a “Book It Now” option for faster coverage.
Here’s the problem, though. There’s a major shortage in both drivers and carrier capacity right now, and it’s only going to get worse. According to American Trucking Associations (ATA), the trucking industry will need more than 1.1 million new drivers in the next 10 years. But that’s only half the problem. The other piece of the puzzle is carrier capacity. A capacity shortage happens when there aren’t enough trucks on the road.
Solving only half the problem doesn’t work. Fleets will need to figure out both how to attract and retain enough drivers and make sure there are enough trucks on the road. Yet the roads are already clogged with traffic, so where will all these hypothetical new trucks fit? This complex issue is likely to continue for some time, making it crucial for freight brokers to develop their networks fast to avoid being left behind.
Why it’s important for brokers to grow their carrier network.
Even in times of plenty, continually growing your carrier network boosts your load capacity (and your monthly income). When the market is pinched, though, as it is for the foreseeable future, growing your carrier network fast becomes even more critical. Without enough capacity to go around, the best way for freight brokers to survive and thrive is to carve out the biggest possible share of available capacity. Your shippers need to know that they can count on you to get the goods where they need to go, which means getting them onto an available truck with a driver quickly and at a competitive rate. Having good relationships with a wide net of carriers can help bump you to the front of their line, so they’ll prioritize your loads whenever possible.
Where freight brokers can source new carriers
Fortunately, there are several options for freight brokers to source new carriers. Each source has its own pros and cons, so for the best chances for success, consider leveraging several of these channels simultaneously.
1. Use broker load boards.
Load boards are among the best tools for new carrier sourcing. You can find new capacity quickly, so you can move shipper freight whenever you need to. But to fully maximize load boards, don’t stop there. Load boards are an excellent place to cultivate long-term relationships with carriers. Build value into every negotiation with a new carrier by offering fair rates and terms, as well as accurate load information, and always let them know that you’re open to working together again. Of course, there are never any guarantees. Using a load board on its own is rarely sufficient since some carriers may use load boards only occasionally to fill in unexpected gaps and may not be interested in a long-term relationship with a freight broker.
2. Search carrier directories.
Like the one offered through Truckstop.com, a carrier directory is a convenient place to search for trustworthy and experienced carriers. Unlike a load board, which is primarily designed to move freight quickly, a carrier directory is a place to look for carriers in anticipation of your future needs. Once you find potential matches, you can reach out to those carriers to see if they’re actively seeking new freight broker partnerships.
3. Use digital freight matching tools.
Digital freight matching tools are a newer technology that automates much of the matching process. For example, rather than manually searching through postings and reading replies to your own posts, you can set up automated rules to find potential matches. You can even manage and automate risk assessment with Carrier Monitoring. Set up notifications to alert you if a carrier on your list changes authority status or receives a negative inspection report.
Digital freight matching tools are excellent sourcing additions. But not all carriers and shippers utilize this technology yet, so to maximize your carrier sourcing, pair it with other options.
4. Search FMCSA data.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) maintains a searchable database of active carriers. However, sourcing carriers this way can be a needle-in-a-haystack situation. The database doesn’t go into many details that freight brokers need to determine if a particular carrier is right for them. Some of the information might also be outdated or wrong. Still, if you’re looking to add carriers to your network, it can’t hurt to try. Just don’t rely on this as your sole method of carrier sourcing.
5. Build a referral network.
Referral networks, while not always a predictable revenue stream, are always helpful. If you like and trust the carriers and shippers you work with, chances are good you’ll like any connections they send to you. Consistently being honest, transparent, and ethical in your dealings makes it highly likely that your connections will say yes if you ask them for referrals.
Important carrier sourcing tips
Brokers are only as strong as their network, so you want to make sure yours is as good as it can be. Don’t just blindly accept any potential carrier. Do your homework to make sure it’s truly worth doing business with that company.
1. Focus on value over price.
Everyone wants to get a good deal. But focusing solely on price is generally a race to the bottom. Instead, prioritize value. There are three main ways to vet a carrier before signing a contract:
- Carrier performance ratings: Truckstop.com’s Broker Load Board lets you choose carriers based on various performance metrics, including compliments, complaints, and overall ratings.
- TIA Watchdog reports: The Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) maintains a watchdog service where members can file a report on any problems they may have experienced. Companies are allowed to respond to the complaint, ensuring fairness and balance. It’s worth looking for any watchdog reports that may have been filed against a potential carrier.
- Carrier onboarding and monitoring: Truckstop.com’s Carrier Onboarding and Monitoring solutions are a great way to keep an eye on current carriers and new ones you’re considering. You can even set up notifications to alert you if anything changes.
2. Understand carrier preferences.
There’s no sense wasting your time by reaching out to carriers that don’t fit your needs. Instead, use Predictive Carrier Sourcing to quickly narrow your options to carriers that operate the equipment you need in the lanes you’re looking for and take the load types you need to move.
3. Check references.
Don’t be afraid to ask potential carriers for references. Then be sure to follow up with those references. Descriptions and ratings can tell you a lot, but there’s no substitute for actual lived experience.
4. Offer competitive rates.
If you’re not offering fair rates in line with competitors, why would a qualified and experienced carrier want to work with you? Fortunately, you can remove the guesswork with Rate Analysis, which lets you quickly crunch and compare large amounts of data in real-time to find your pricing sweet spot.
5. Make it easy to book loads.
Don’t make your favorite carriers jump through a bunch of hoops to book your loads. Truckstop.com’s Book It Now feature lets you decide which carriers can view and book loads with you in just a couple of clicks, even outside of business hours.
6. Onboard carriers properly.
Onboarding a new carrier to your system can be time-consuming, expensive, and frustrating for both you and the carrier. Replace tedious manual processes through automation. Automated Carrier Onboarding is up to 80% faster than traditional manual methods. In addition, you get access to a wide variety of tools designed to streamline your processes and reduce the risks associated with signing up a new carrier.
Start sourcing quality carriers today.
Truckstop.com connects tens of thousands of carriers, shippers, and brokers via a complete technological solution that includes freight matching, planning and tracking tools, transportation management systems (TMS), real-time rate analysis, and innovative payment solutions. Truckstop.com is also fully integrated with most of the major software solutions in the industry. Get started today with Truckstop.com’s Carrier Onboarding and Monitoring solution.